On 11 May 1906 Joyce answered an advertisement for a job in a bank in Rome.
The advertisement appeared in the Rome newspaper La Tribuna seeking young men fluent in English and Italian to work in a bank in Rome. Joyce responded immediately, and started work at the Nast-Kolb Schumacher bank in August 1906.
At the time he answered the advertisement in May 1906, Joyce and his brother Stanislaus were employed at the Berlitz School in Trieste, but the School was facing problems. The sub-director of the School, Bertelli, had just absconded with the School’s funds, and the director, Almidano Artifoni, told the Joyce brothers that he wouldn’t be able to keep both of them employed during the summer months when there were few students.
Joyce, eager for change, started looking through the employment advertisements in the newspapers and on 11 May 1906 he applied for a position as a correspondence clerk at the Nast-Kolb Schumacher bank in Rome. In support of his application, Joyce obtained a reference from Roberto Prezioso, editor of the Piccolo della Sera newspaper in which articles by Joyce had been published. Joyce also sent a letter of reference he had from Dublin Lord Mayor Timothy Harrington, which Joyce had kept since his time in Paris in 1902.
The bank negotiated with Joyce about the appointment during May and into June 1906, and by 10 June Joyce was already able to inform Grant Richards that he was to be employed at a bank in Rome from the end of July. Agreement was reached with the bank on 12 June: Joyce was to start a two-month probationary period at the beginning of August. His salary was to be 250 lira a month.
The bank was located on the corner of via di S Claudio, not far from the Piazza Colonna. The owners of the bank were two Schumachers and two Nast-Kolbs. The two Schumachers were brothers, the elder of whom also doubled as the Consul for Austria-Hungary. The Nast-Kolbs were a father and son, the father old and bandy-legged with thick white eyebrows, while the son Joyce described as “brisk.” There was also another, younger Nast-Kolb who worked at the bank. Joyce thought that the Nast-Kolbs were well educated, but never heard them discuss anything but the “blaues heft” and the “rotes heft,” the books in which the bank’s transactions were recorded.
After one month at the bank, Joyce had worn out the seat of his trousers sitting for long hours every day working on the bank’s correspondence. He was rewarded with a promotion from the correspondence department to reception, where he lasted until he quit the job in March 1907 to return to Trieste.
Sources & Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.